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Archive for October, 2009

By Duncan Currie from National Review

The American health-care debate is a blizzard of numbers, but few get tossed around as frequently as “46 million.” According to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), that’s roughly how many people (the more precise figure was 45.7 million) lacked health insurance at a given moment in 2007 — nearly one-sixth of the entire U.S. population. The latest CPS data show that 46.3 million were uninsured at a given moment in 2008.

Yet while it carries superficial appeal as a political talking point, the “46 million” statistic tells us nothing about the demographics of America’s uninsured. Economist Keith Hennessey, director of the National Economic Council under Pres. George W. Bush, has examined the 2007 data and sliced the 45.7 million uninsured into several distinct clusters, basing his estimates on an earlier government analysis, conducted in 2005. Hennessey reckons that 6.4 million were enrolled in Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program — now known just as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — but misreported their status (a phenomenon known as the “Medicaid undercount”); 4.3 million were eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but not enrolled; 9.3 million were noncitizens; 10.1 million belonged to families earning more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL); and 5 million were childless adults aged 18 to 34. If we eliminate those individuals from the original 45.7 million, we are left with about 10.6 million.

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Source: CBS News

Of all the problems facing the United States right now, none are more important than health care.

President Obama says rising costs are driving huge federal budget deficits that imperil our future, and that there is enough waste and fraud in the system to pay for health care reform if it was eliminated.

At the center of both issues is Medicare, the government insurance program that provides health care to 46 million elderly and disabled Americans. But it also provides a rich and steady income stream for criminals who are constantly finding new ways to steal a sizable chunk of the half trillion dollars that are paid out each year in Medicare benefits.

In fact, Medicare fraud – estimated now to total about $60 billion a year – has become one of, if not the most profitable, crimes in America.

This story may raise your blood pressure, along with some troubling questions about our government’s ability to manage a medical bureaucracy.

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Source: Wall Street Journal

None of the new distortions that the Senate health-care bill will layer onto the already-distorted tax code have received the attention they deserve, but in particular its effects on marginal tax rates could use scrutiny. Incredibly, for those with lower incomes, ObamaCare will impose a penalty as high as 34% on . . . work.

Central to Max Baucus’s plan—assuming the public option stays dead—is an insurance “exchange,” through which individuals and families could choose from a menu of standardized policies offered at heavily subsidized rates, provided that their employers do not offer coverage. The subsidies are distributed on a sliding scale based on income, and according to the Congressional Budget Office 23 million people will participate a decade from now, at a cost to taxpayers of some $461 billion.

Think about a family of four earning $42,000 in 2016, which is between 150% and 200% of the federal poverty level. CBO says a mid-level “silver” plan will cost about $14,700 in premiums, of which the family will pay $2,600—since the government would pay the other $12,100. If the family breadwinner (or breadwinners, because the subsidies are based on combined gross income) then gets a raise or works overtime and wages rise to $54,000, the subsidy drops to $9,900. That amounts to an implicit 34% tax on each additional dollar of income.

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Initially, the insurance companies supported the proposed healthcare reform because they thought it would increase revenue by forcing more citizens to purchase health insurance or face a hefty fine. Now they have decided to oppose it because the fine is not large enough to provide the incentive for people to scare people into buying healthcare. What the insurance companies don’t understand is that once the government gets into the arena the whole game is lost. The insurance companies should be fighting to keep the government out of the private insurance market as much as possible.

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Source: National Review

Ten things that ought to be in the health-care bill (but probably won’t).

By Kevin Williamson

If you want to know what the solution to America’s health-care problems looks like, reach into your pocket: About 90 percent of Americans own cellular phones, up from less than 1 percent 20 years ago. The cell-phone market is a highly democratic one in that working-class and poor Americans have access to roughly the same range of products and services as middle-class and wealthy Americans, and practically everybody has access to products and services that 20 years ago were reserved to millionaires, to the extent that they were available at all. Remember those gigantic cellular bricks that Wall Street traders toted around in their briefcases back in the 1980s? Those were pricey status symbols in the Reagan era — Motorola’s two-pound DynaTAC 8000X cost the equivalent of $9,000 in today’s money, and the service fees were enormous — but using one today would get you laughed out of the poorest trailer park or housing project in America.

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Source: National Review

Ten things that probably will be in the health-care bill (but shouldn’t).

By Stephen Spruiell

Rummaging through the stacks here at National Review world headquarters, I discovered in our Dec. 13, 1993, special supplement on Hillarycare a curious little ad that read “Just say NO to socialized health care.” The ad implored me to call 1-800-5RESIST, so just for fun, I dialed the number, hoping that maybe, just maybe, the brave soul who set up this hotline back in the ’90s was still manning the post, dispensing advice on the best way to oppose Obamacare.Wrong. A male voice offered me an invitation to “talk to ladies all over the country,” and I don’t think he meant Blanche Lincoln and Olympia Snowe. I hung up and returned to the health-care debate, 2009. The Republicans are in disarray. The Democrats are cutting deals. The Congressional Budget Office is acting like Burger King, telling Max Baucus, “Have it your way.” Of course 1-800-5RESIST is now a phone-sex line: We’re screwed.

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The Senate Finance Committee holds its big health-care vote today, but the bigger story is that the health-care industry may finally be coming to its senses. After months of serving as Rose Garden props, insurers, doctors and hospitals are discovering they’ve been taken for a ride on ObamaCare. Too bad it may be too late to stop the train.

The best scales-from-the-eyes moment comes courtesy of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry lobby. Yesterday AHIP released an important PricewaterhouseCoopers study showing that the Finance bill would on average add some $1,700 a year to the cost of family coverage in 2013. A decade from now, family premiums would cost $4,000 more than if Congress did nothing, and singles would pay about $1,500 more. Hardest hit would be the individual market, with rates rising by 49%, but even the largest employers would see increases between 9% and 11%.

The study’s findings won’t shock anyone who’s read the bill’s details, but its provenance might: In a deal cut earlier this year, the insurance industry acquiesced to rules requiring them to take all comers, regardless of health status or history, and also charge them more or less the same premiums. In return, Congress would subsidize individuals to buy their products and provide new customers by requiring everyone to buy insurance or pay a tax penalty.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704107204574469100132608102.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

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